After I finished my last painting—the older one that I felt like covering/changing, I’ve been asking myself a lot of interesting questions. Life questions, I guess.
Here is the finished piece that I titled, Stay the Course:
This is 24 x 30 inches, oil, paper, and embroidery thread stitched on canvas.
I’m pretty happy with it or satisfied, and maybe more glad it’s finished than anything else. I’m never “satisfied” with anything I do right after I finish it. I need a week or so. Maybe more. I’m so fickle. I’m hard to please, or something.
Now the plan is to get back to work on my Discarded Snapshots series, even though I’ve been hesitating. I’d been hesitating for a long time now. I don’t know if it’s been laziness, depression, or insolence. Yes, I am insolent.
It’s all got me thinking about how negative I can be (as some people have said). How unsatisfied and angry I am, in general. How my bipolar depression is so prominent. That’s really what’s at work. But most people who don’t understand mental illness think people with bipolar can just “choose” to snap out of it. Add this with trauma (C-PTSD), and it’s not an excuse; it’s fucking difficult to be a “positive” person. Believe me, I try. I try all the time.
I see a psychologist once a week. I facilitate steps on the worksheets she gives me and use the skills to get myself out of the overwhelming emotions I battle almost daily. I improve at times. I’ve improved myself over time. I get more mindful as I get older. I have changed my behavior as much as possible and continue to try more and more. But I am flawed. I’ll never be perfect.
Sometimes, I don’t know what “counts.” It seems it’s three steps forward and one step back or something like that. Maybe less at times. It feels like there’s no progress during times when I’m really dark.
But even when I’m black, I try to pull myself out. I ask myself questions. What is it I really want? What is the actual problem, and what is really going on?
In art, what is it going to take for me to feel relevant, legitimate, acknowledged, or satisfied? How many more accolades do I need, from which sources, and what amount of money? These things do not motivate me or create lasting happiness for me. This is not the issue. I can confidently rule that shit out.
So what do I need? I need to define that. I am working on defining my needs. Not what I needed (I already know that will never happen; my family is dead). I’m searching in the now. Deep soul searching. What do I need in art making to make me happy? Not “happy,” but to feel fulfilled. To make life worth living, even if it means becoming an upholsterer of children’s chairs, a dollhouse decorator, or the director of art programs at a non-profit. Whatever it is.
I can’t help but think about Mike Kelley. I’m not exactly sure why, but he comes to mind. Did he ask himself these questions first? And what if he did? Would he have made a different choice? What if he could have found out what brought him joy? That is what I’m searching for right now. I don’t want to come up empty on these questions. I just can’t.
So, I have to ask myself some hard questions. Yes, they are hard because I need to know what’s really motivating me if it’s not money or acknowledgment. It could be something worse that I don’t want to be associated with; greed, power, phony self-confidence, external validation. If so, I need to work on myself a lot more than I thought. If I’m some kind of monster, something needs to be done. Gotta double down on changing my life around.